ACLU claims Biloxi is running a modern-day 'debtor's prison'

ACLU claims Biloxi is running a modern-day 'debtor's prison'

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - An attorney with the Mississippi ACLU has filed a class action lawsuit in federal court alleging the city of Biloxi is operating a modern-day "debtor's prison" system - jailing people who cannot afford to pay fines, depriving them of due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Gulfport on behalf of Qumortia Kennedy, Joseph Anderson and Richard Tillery who claim they were incarcerated for days to weeks in an "illegal revenue generation scheme" and based solely due to their inability to pay fines.

Those named as defendants in lawsuit include The City of Biloxi, Police Chief John Miller, City Judge James Steele, and Judicial Correction Services, the private company contracted to collect fines.

The lawsuit details the plaintiffs' cases of receiving fines for citations for violations like speeding, suspended licenses, failure to have insurance. In each case, the plaintiff alleges their inability to pay their fines resulted in arrest.

The suit alleges the defendants violated the Constitution prohibition on imprisonment of people for the failure to pay court-imposed fines.

The City of Biloxi released the following statement about the lawsuit:

The City of Biloxi has not yet been served with the lawsuit. However, based on media inquiries, we believe the ACLU is mistaken about the process in Biloxi, and we look forward to explaining it to the ACLU. The City of Biloxi treats all defendants fairly under the law. In fact, the court has used community service in cases where defendants are unable to pay their fines.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for each plaintiff.

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